Labour warns parents against taking children out of school for holidays

Labour has warned parents that taking their children out of school for holidays could damage their life chances and academic performance. The party’s education spokesman, Ed Balls, said that missing even a few days of school could have a negative effect on children’s attainment and future prospects. He urged parents to respect the rules and avoid taking their children on term-time breaks.

Balls said that every day of school matters, and that parents should not jeopardise their children’s education for the sake of a cheaper holiday. He cited evidence from the Department for Education that showed that pupils who miss between 10 and 20 per cent of school sessions are more than three times less likely to achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths, than those who attend regularly.

Labour warns parents against taking children out of school for holidays
Labour warns parents against taking children out of school for holidays

He also pointed out that taking children out of school without permission could result in fines or prosecution for parents. He said that the government had given headteachers more discretion to grant leave of absence in exceptional circumstances, but that this did not include holidays.

The rise of term-time holidays and the reasons behind it

According to the latest figures from the Department for Education, the number of pupils who missed at least one session of school due to a family holiday increased by 10 per cent in 2022, from 1.1 million to 1.2 million. This accounted for 9.7 per cent of all absences in state-funded primary and secondary schools in England.

One of the main reasons behind this trend is the high cost of travelling during school holidays, which can be up to four times more expensive than during term time. Many parents say that they cannot afford to take their children on holiday otherwise, and that they value the family time and cultural experiences that holidays provide.

Some parents also argue that taking their children out of school for a few days does not harm their education, and that they can catch up with the work they miss. They claim that the rules are too rigid and that headteachers should have more flexibility to grant leave of absence for holidays.

The views of teachers, travel industry and campaigners

Teachers have expressed their frustration and concern over the issue of term-time holidays, saying that they disrupt the continuity and quality of learning for both the pupils who go on holiday and those who stay in school. They say that it is unfair and disrespectful to expect teachers to provide extra work or tuition for pupils who miss school for holidays, and that it undermines their authority and professionalism.

The travel industry has also been criticised for inflating the prices of holidays during school breaks, and for not offering more affordable and flexible options for families. Some travel operators have defended their pricing policies, saying that they reflect the supply and demand of the market, and that they offer discounts and deals for early bookings and low-season travel.

Campaigners have called for a reform of the school holiday system, and for more dialogue and cooperation between schools, parents and the travel industry. They have suggested various solutions, such as staggering the school holidays across different regions, introducing a fixed Easter break, allowing parents to take their children on holiday for up to 10 days a year with the headteacher’s consent, and capping the price difference between peak and off-peak travel.

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